To keep, or not to keep – that is the question

Categories: Care.

However, after the treatment, patients will have undergone permanent changes, physically and emotionally, that can affect their overall well-being. 

A new research article from Thailand, published last month, sheds some more light regarding patients’ preference of their breast cancer treatment.

As a continuation from the previous work, this mixed methods study focused not on the doctors but rather patients’ preferences on their choice of treatment. Key findings are reported below.

A conserved breast as an essential part of life

Participants regarded breasts as a crucial part of them, physically and psychologically. Having breasts made them feel complete as a woman, a mother, and a wife. Thirty-six respondents viewed breasts as a representation of their womanhood. They mentioned feeling a lack of wholeness or even handicapped if their “womanhood” were to be removed.

If I don’t have a breast then I will feel like a handicapped woman. Manly, even,” said one participant.

The importance of conserved breasts is relational with age

Despite the major concerns regarding conserved breasts, participants saw it as less important relative to their age. Twenty-two emphasised the importance of breasts in correlation with physical body image and self-perceived body image in their younger years, but felt more accepting toward the lack of one in older age.

On having a breast removed, one participant commented: If I was young, I would be devastated. But now that I’m getting older so it’s fine.”

Summary and way forward

In summary, even though we performed our work in a single institute, it clearly left messages that need further and larger scale studies in the future; body image is the sole independent factor that had an influence over breast cancer patients’ quality of life. Conserved breasts were also essential to participants’ lives, had a positive impact, and led to a better body image.

Physicians should take these aspects into consideration when regarding a patient’s choice of treatment and care.

Dr Tharin Phenwan, one of the study authors, said: “From our study, we found that breasts are not just mere organ but are part of participants’ (females who have breast cancer) spirituality, one of the key elements of palliative care.

“The breasts can be the meaning of their existence as a complete mother, wife, and family. Unfortunately, from our data, doctors did not include this aspect for their choice of treatment at all. This treatment, in turn, affects women’s body image and, consequently, quality of life.

“We hope that by publishing this work, we can bring this important aspect to the attention of surgeons, so that they do not disrupt the spirituality of their patients by chance.”

Full article is available from here and also here.

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